Discomfort Is a Powerful Teacher

On a scale from 1-10, how comfortable are you in letting your child feel uncomfortable?

Most parents are overly preoccupied with comfort for their children, especially young children (under 10).
For example, many parents automatically:

  • adjust their own schedule, last minute, to accommodate the child’s schedule
  • cook 2-3 different types of food so the child can have options for that one meal
  • choose restaurants, or even vacation spots, primarily to accommodate the child’s interests
  • instruct the child what to wear when the child is perfectly capable of making this decision

At first glance, your reaction may be (rightfully so): “But it’s my job to keep my child safe and out of threat.
Yes, of course. It is our primary responsibility to ensure the safety, physical and psychological, of our children.

However, what I want to point out is not safety; it is exaggerated comfort, to the point that children don’t have a chance to experience discomfort, not even for small periods of time, and therefore they lack the chance to develop tolerance, critical thinking, and personal responsibility.

Imagine that you’re going to an event ( or think of another example depending on your child’s age). You tell the child ahead of time what this event is about; what to expect; what kind of fun activities he/she will do; what friends will be there; etc. You arrive at the event and half of the things you described are not happening, for whatever reasons. The child feels disappointed and maybe angry. What do you do? Would you leave the event after 10 minutes? Would you give the kids their smartphones/ ipads to compensate for the gap in expectations? Would you talk to the event planner to “do something”?

I’ve seen many situations in which parents themselves can’t tolerate seeing their kids feeling uncomfortable for a few minutes.
I am not advocating for provoked, planned or intentional discomfort; but I am advocating for a more welcoming attitude towards everyday life situations that create discomfort for our kids (like a long line at the store; an order that takes a bit too long at the restaurant; a traffic jam; a meal that’s not “perfect”; etc). Young children need low-levels of everyday life discomfort to learn:

  • about themselves and the world around them
  • personal boundaries
  • personal preferences
  • personal levels of tolerance
  • self- regulation / co-regulation
  • patience
  • communication skills
  • personal responsibility.
What is your relationship with discomfort? How do you handle it? Let me know on Instagram or Facebook.
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